In the fall of 1965, State Representative Gene Snowden was contacted by the Indiana Association for Retarded Children and asked if he would organize a local association in Huntington. Gene Snowden created our organization’s first Board of Directors that included community leaders with expertise in financial, legal, medical and religious backgrounds. The first Board members were David Brewer, Ann MacIntosh, Dr. John Regan, and Royce Ruckman. The group was the original incorporators of our organization.
The first step was to find broad community support and what better way to do that than through membership. Art Turner, of the Moose Lodge in Huntington volunteered to spearhead the task of membership. The first membership “Drive” was titled: “The Moose March for 1001”. The number 1001 was the goal of members for the organization in 1965. That is why the main P.O. Box address for Pathfinder Services Inc.’s main office in Huntington is 1001.
1001 was a symbolic number because in 1965 the population of Huntington was 35,000. The national average of people with disabilities was 3% of the population. It was estimated that there were 1,000 people with disabilities in Huntington County. The goal of “The Moose March for 1001” was to find one member for every person with disabilities in Huntington County. The “1” was added to promote each individual member and to signify that each person with disabilities was important.
On June 27, 1966 over 200 people canvassed Huntington County obtaining 813 individual memberships and 11 organizational memberships putting total memberships over the goal of 1001 members. This effort persuaded Huntington County and the County Commissioners to provide great support.
ARC School and Workshop
After the Association for Retarded Children had members, it began to move into two areas: a school for the severely mentally retarded and a sheltered workshop. Mary Brennan and Fred Teddy were two very influential people involved with this expansion. The first school of the Association was held in the basement of Trinity Methodist Church in September of 1966 and had 13 children between the ages of six to twelve. The sheltered workshop opened at the same time in Fred Teddy’s basement, and began with only two workers. In 1967, the Association and school relocated to 207 Etna Avenue.
Up to this time, the school and workshop had no official name. Newspaper writer Howard Houghton, devoted his weekly newspaper column, “The Village,” to the school during its first open house on February 2, 1967. The school was named, “The Village School,” and the workshop soon became known as “The Village Workshop.” In the spring of 1967, however the workshop moved to a more convenient location on Byron Street in Huntington, across from the old Huntington County Jail. The workshop had ten clients after the Association’s second year in 1967. In 1969 though, the Association had a workforce of twenty five people plus administrative staff causing a move from the Byron Street location to the old Clear Creek School, six miles north of Huntington.
During this expansion, the Association hired its first executive director, Donald Kartepeter, in June of 1967. Kartepeter left after only one year, and was replaced on an interim basis by Dale Francis in July of 1968. Francis was replaced by William Kruzan in 1969. Kruzan was in charge of being Director of Special Education for the Huntington County Community Schools, and the Executive Director for the HCARC. Kruzan was in charge when the move to Clear Creek from Byron Street was planned and carried out, which led to an expanded workshop as well. The larger facilities allowed the purchasing of new equipment and the hiring of new staff people.
The school moved to Clear Creak a year after the workshop did. Both the workshop and the school remained at Clear Creek until 1973. The workshop then relocated to State Street, while the two classes were moved into regular school buildings. This completed the transition of offering Special Needs classes to the Children of Huntington County.
At the annual meeting of the Association in November of 1971, Director Charles DelMonico reported that there were 55 clients in the workshop and 33 in the school, plus four in the new pre-school. The facilities at Clear Creek were a problem, because the building needed major repairs, and the School Board or the HCARC did not want to invest the money. The first step in a new building took place in December of 1972, when the Association’s Board put $10,000 into a building fund.
The Association’s first halfway house was opened in March of 1973 and was called The Villa. Fred Teddy and his wife were the house parents, and the adult daily living program was an extension of the workshop. The State decided after the Villa was opened however, that all residential centers needed financed through Medicaid which would pay only for full time residents of a licensed facility. This required the Villa to become licensed, and to have enough residents to maintain the licensing, which the Villa accomplished both tasks.
When DelMonico resigned in January of 1975, Thomas Pomeranz became the Director. Pomoranz received the responsibility of building a new location, as well as the examination of what direction the Association was moving.
State Street Center
By now, the Association had raised over one million dollars for a new building, and the construction of the facility was Pomoranz’s claim to fame. The State Street site was chosen during the Summer of 1975, and was selected because many clients lived in the general vicinity of the location. The Huntington County Community School Corporation owned the land which made the price affordable. Ground was broken on October 13, 1976, and the Association moved in October, 1977. The Building was accepted April 12, 1978.
When Pomeranz resigned in January of 1978, he had strengthened many program areas within the Association, and he believed that advocacy was the central concern of any Association for Retarded Citizens. Pomeranz began the negotiations for our status as a Vocational Rehabilitation Center in 1977, and the status was granted in June of 1978.
After Thomas Pomeranz resigned in January of 1978, Steven Gerber became Executive Director in March, 1978. Gerber was the first Director to come up from within the organization and inherited a wide-ranging program and a brand new building. The new building on State Street had been planned for a population of 125, however when the building opened in 1978, the Association was serving about a third of that number. Gerber’s immediate concern was income, and Vocational Rehabilitation helped answer that concern.
The Association began serving clients not only in Huntington County, but in Grant County as well. The expansion of the residential program helped as well because the houses became a reliable source of income for the Association. In 1980, an infant simulation program began, and the Association began providing respite care the same year.
The workshop expansion was a much slower process. In 1980, a vocational program was established with Huntington North High School placing high school students in the workshop for two hours per day. In 1982, a capping machine was obtained from Advanced Engineering in Huntington, and in 1983 shrink wrapping equipment.
These acquisitions led to several series of acquisitions which created new capabilities. The Exterior Maintenance Division began operating in 1982, providing income, employment and several new types of training.
In February of 1981, a Planned Giving Task Force was established, and after two years of discussion, the Pathfinder Foundation was created to provide a permanent endowment.
This caused the Administration and the Board to seriously think about the direction of the Association. The organization was no longer only concerned with adults with disabilities. As early as 1979, it was suggested that the organization needed a new name.
A New Name: Pathfinder Services Inc.
On December 5, 1981, choosing a name suggested by an employee, the Huntington County Association for Retarded Citizens became Pathfinder Services. The name change pointed to a change for the future, and brought about an interest in the whole person, not just adults with disabilities.
After the name change, questions began to be raised about the nature of the workshop. When the workshop began in 1966, it was known as a training center instead of a sheltered workshop. The goal was when an individual was ready to take a job outside of the workshop they would, however people were coming into the program faster than people were moving out. If there was no job available within the community, people would stay with the workshop making it expand quickly. In November of 1977 the Board of Directors decided to deliberately include the sheltered workshop component to what would be called Pathfinder Services Inc. in 1981.
This rapid expansion in the late seventies and early eighties was in response to needs in the community, but also in response to the need to generate income for the new building. Also, the need to generate income came to the forefront again in 1981, when President Reagan cut federal funding for social agencies. The Huntington County Association for Retarded Citizens, known as Pathfinder Services Inc., discovered additional ways to serve adults with disabilities.
Pathfinder Services Inc. already had expertise in specialized areas which could be a value to the community at large. Pathfinder Services Inc. moved into Vocational Rehabilitation, which is practiced with Resource Connection, our Employment Division.
Steve Gerber left Pathfinder Services Inc. in November of 1984. Gerber helped Pathfinder’s identify their niches in both the public and private sector, and helped establish the organization’s within those sector’s. Pathfinder Services Inc. was able to expand dramatically while Gerber served as Executive Director. For example, when the workshop moved into the new building in 1976, it had about 25 clients. When Gerber left in 1981, there were over 100 people in the workshop, and the organization was serving almost 150 people.
Gerber was replaced by current President John Niederman, who began as President of the organization in 1985. Since 1985, John has helped Pathfinder Services Inc. develop Pathfinder Resource Connection in 1986, Pathfinder Kids Kampus in 1990, Recycling in 1990, and Pathfinder Community Connections Neighborworks® HomeOwnership Center in 1997 along with new office locations in Plymouth and Wabash.